It has perhaps taken a little longer for the new Mini to make its appearance than most people expected. However, when you are replacing a motoring legend then you are perhaps permitted to take it slowly. Quite how it will be perceived when it eventually arrives on our roads is another matter entirely. But more than four decades after it first made its debut - and with millions of its predecessor sold, the last few coming off the production line even as you read this - the new Mini beckons. Surprisingly, the unveiling of the British-built icon will take place at the Paris Motor Show later this month, instead of waiting a couple of weeks to do it on its home patch. Few cars are likely to command the level of interest this one has but it is unclear whether the newcomer will cause the same sort of fuss as the Mini did when it was born in 1959 through the skills and foresight of Sir Alec Issigonis. Back then, it set entirely new standards in terms of design, motoring innovativeness and dynamics. It played a leading part during the feelgood Swinging Sixties and Smashing Seventies and was still raising smiles in the Eighties and Nineties. Even today it has a strong cult following. The Mini has always been the sort of car you wanted to take up to your bedroom at night and wrap a cover around. You just sort of felt protective towards it. Its appearance in the movies - remember the epic The Italian Job? - pushed the car further into the spotlight as it displayed its sporting qualities, thanks largely to John Cooper whose name remains closely associated with high performance Minis. It is in these famous footsteps that the new Mini Cooper treads, but with a hi-tech, modern twist. Many of the styling features of the new car are unmistakably Mini, but under the skin it now offers the latest automative technology available. The design team entrusted with the task of achieving this were determined not to make it a freak retro design, but an evolution of the original. Certainly. it looks more macho, capable of defending its corner against its supermini competitors. Looking more squat and purposeful, the Mini Cooper looks as if it is spoiling for a fight. At the front, the bonnet, lights and grille give it a friendly face, while at the rear, the wide steeply raked body with its flared wheel arches have a compact feel. For such a small car, there is a huge expanse of glass which ensures a bright airy feel inside the cabin. There is also the option of a panoramic sunroof. Some things are, of course, irreplaceable and that goes for the characteristic central speedometer. Not only that, but all the dials and switches have been designed on the basis of the predecessor. Many of the new features on the Mini Cooper simply weren't around when it was first introduced, such as remote central locking and adjustable steering column. Suddenly, the Mini has grown up and now incorporates all the toys that go with modern day motoring. There is even a 50/50 rear seat split to get more luggage in. Behind the wheel, the handling and performance of the Mini is guaranteed to bring a smile to everybody's face. Power comes from a 1.6-litre 16-valve engine delivering the sort of speeds that few previous Mini owners could imagine and the suspension is much tighter to cope with the rigours of pot-holed roads. The new Mini is a legacy of Rover's flirt with BMW and will be built at the German company's Oxford plant. It will be sold by BMW's existing dealer partners, although separately from the luxury machines. Prices have still to be confirmed, but you can expect to fork out somewhere in the region of £10,000 for the pleasure of owning one.